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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Recap from the Portland Trail Blazers' thrilling Game 7 win over the Denver Nuggets

The Portland Trail Blazers are heading to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000 after a thrilling 100-96 Game 7 win over the Denver Nuggets on the road.

CJ McCollum led the way with a game-high 37 points on the night, with Damian Lillard struggling with his shot all game, connecting on just 3-of-17 shots for his 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 29 points, 13 rebounds and two assists, with Jamal Murray adding 17 and Gary Harris 15.

With the Blazers booking an appointment with the Golden State Warriors, here are four key takeaways from today's action...

CJ McCollum came to play

On a night where Damian Lillard struggled to get going, CJ McCollum took the reigns for the Blazers, willing them to a Game 7 victory.

McCollum scored 14 of his game-high 37 points in the crucial third quarter, helping the Blazers claw their way back from as many as 17 points down to go into the fourth quarter trailing by just one point.

In the final 90 seconds of the game, McCollum came up with two huge mid-range jumpers to keep the Blazers in front, scoring six of their final eight points on the night.

McCollum channelled his inner LeBron with his Game 7 heroics, doing his best impersonation of the King with this monster chasedown block on Jamal Murray in the fourth quarter.

Dame steps up when it matters most

It was a rough Game 7 for Damian Lillard.

Despite finishing with just 13 points on 3-for-17 shooting from the field, Portland's All-Star guard was involved in one of the game's biggest sequences.

With 3:28 remaining in the game, Denver grabbed a defensive rebound with an opportunity to cut into a four-point deficit. All-Star centre Nikola Jokic tossed an errant outlet pass that was intercepted by Lillard, who found Evan Turner on the wing before he relocated to the left corner for a wide-open triple.

While Lillard struggled to get going from the field, he made his presence felt as he grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out eight assists and snagged three steals in the Blazers' decisive win.

As the Blazers move on to face the Warriors, improved production and efficiency is to be expected from Lillard.

Moments like the one above serve as a reminder that big-time players will always find a way to make an impact regardless of how the game is going.

A tale of two halves

The Blazers just couldn't buy a bucket in the first half of Game 7 and were lucky to go into the third quarter trailing by only nine points.

Outside of McCollum, the rest of the team shot just 7-of-34 in the first half, with Lillard managing just seven points on 1-of-9 shooting.

Credit the Nuggets, who came out of the gates playing decisively on their home floor as they made a point to smother Lillard at every turn, limiting his impact all game.

After Denver took a 12-point lead after the first quarter and a 17-point lead in the second, they couldn't finish the job, letting the Blazers back in as they struggled to keep up their offence as they game wore on.

Both teams struggled shooting the ball from deep, with the Blazers going 4-of-26 from deep, while the Nuggets hit just 2-of-19 threes, missing their final 17 attempts after Jokic his two early triples in the first quarter.

What goes on at the top

Last summer, when CJ McCollum spoke with Warriors All-Star forward Kevin Durant on the Blazers' title aspirations, this was his response:

Now, 10 months later, a virtuoso performance from McCollum has earned the Blazers a date with the Warriors, who await the return of the injured Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, in the Western Conference Finals.

What was once a laughable anecdote has now become an interesting reality in which McCollum, Lillard and the Blazers will look to continue to shock the NBA world.

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